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After 37 Years, Tony Geary Leaves 'General Hospital'

Anthony Geary has played the role Luke Spencer on the ABC daytime drama "General Hospital" since 1978. (Craig Sjodin/ABC)
Anthony Geary has played the role Luke Spencer on the ABC daytime drama "General Hospital" since 1978. (Craig Sjodin/ABC)

Ever since 1978, Anthony Geary has played Luke Spencer on the soap opera “General Hospital.” He and co-star Genie Francis are perhaps the most beloved couple in daytime drama, Luke and Laura.

The characters’ 1981 wedding was the highest-rated hour in soap opera history. The romance has had its critics because Laura falls in love with Luke despite having been raped by him. As Geary told Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti, Luke was one of the earliest anti-heroes in daytime drama.

“He’s always been challenging to his audience and I’ve always liked that,” he said. “I’ve liked the fact that he’s not the nicest of heroes.”

Tony Geary discussed his time on “General Hospital” with Here & Now ahead of his last appearance as Luke, which will air this coming Monday.

Interview Highlights: Anthony Geary

Whether he thought he’d make it this far

“I didn’t. I originally signed on for 13 weeks, and the producer at the time, Gloria Monty, decided that she liked me in a certain light on the show. They didn’t have what we now know as a staple in daytime – anti-heroes. And so she was determined to create the first major character who was an anti-hero. That means that basically that he is a not a good guy nor a bad guy but a regular guy, a man of grays, not white hat or black hat. And kind of an anarchist, and a man who had very little regard for authority, but probably too much of a regard for his own sense of justice. And I went on for 13 weeks and at the end of 13, they asked me to stay a year, and after a year they asked me for two more years, and it was a fascinating character. And the idea of having a job as an actor, and not having to go look for work for 37 years was so amazing, I could not pass it up.”

On how long daytime soap operas can stay on air

“I think that’s one of the gifts that daytime gives to its audience, that if they enjoy the character and the actor playing that character, they can actually grow older with that person.”

“I think that’s one of the gifts that daytime gives to its audience, that if they enjoy the character and the actor playing that character, they can actually grow older with that person, sort of in real time. And it’s the only medium I know where I could, for example, flash back on 30 years ago, and we could have the footage of me 30 years ago. It’s a terrifying thing to see when they use a 30-year-old flashback, but it’s quite a gift to the audience.”

On one of the show’s most famous fans

“Princess Diana had been a fan of the show, and got bootlegged copies of ‘General Hospital’ sent to her, because GH never ran in the U.K. And from her wedding she wrote a note to both Genie Francis, who played Laura, and I, and sent us both bottles of champagne from her wedding. It was a heady moment for both of us. Very amazing.”

How ‘General Hospital’ grew into a cultural phenomenon

“It’s amazing in retrospect. At the time we were working so hard, I don’t think we really realized the impact that the show was having, or that the marriage of Luke and Laura was having, on its audience. Genie Francis and I were working five days a week, sometimes as much as 70 pages of dialogue a day, so we would finish our work, go home, learn the next day’s work and come back and do it for months at a time. And it really took leaving the studio and going out of L.A. – either making a personal appearance or going to my parents’ home in Utah – for me to realize that the show and this character was having the impact it was having.”

His favorite memory from the show

“One that always comes to mind when people ask about what I hold as a treasured memory was the day I worked with Elizabeth Taylor. She came on to play Helena Cassadine, who had cursed Luke and Laura because Luke had killed her husband. And the character that she played was over the top and grand, and I got the opportunity to work with her one day, and I got completely lost in her amazing violet eyes, and every thought that went in my head went out of my head, and I just had to step back and say, ‘My God it’s Elizabeth Taylor.’ And she laughed and said, ‘Oh honey you should have seen me yesterday. I couldn’t remember one of these lines.’ She said, ‘I’m not used to acting.’ And then it led to a nice relationship between the two of us, which is very precious to me. So I would say that stands out as number one.”

Watch Luke and Laura's wedding on 'General Hospital' Watch Anthony Geary and Elizabeth Taylor (as Helena Cassadine)

Guest

  • Anthony Geary, actor who has played the role Luke Spencer on the ABC daytime drama “General Hospital” since 1978. He has received eight Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

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